September is National Healthy Aging Month. We all know aging is unavoidable, but recognizing that aging can be healthy is not something we all have embraced. We’ve seen our older relatives and friends slowly “go down hill” as we say. True, for some of us there are genetics at play and pre-dispositions to certain diseases, however, that doesn’t mean we can’t be healthy in other areas of our lives. Healthy living can be about our mind, spirit and our body. We are more intelligent and more connected than any other time in history, so let’s use it to our advantage and change the way we think about aging!

Think about yourself over the years. What was your best year? Was it when you were 21 or 45? Or is it right now? Picture yourself at that age and remember how you felt. Describe why it was your best year. Thinking positively can go a long way to improving your health. And if you think you haven’t had your best year yet, then make it a personal priority to change that and have your best year now.

Healthy Aging Magazine wrote this about healthy aging month: “Surround yourself with energetic, happy, positive people of all ages and you will be happier too.” Their article also added to smile often and to use it to ward off naysayers.

Another tip from the magazine I liked was, “Walk like a vibrant, healthy person. Analyze your gait. Do you walk slowly because you have just become unaware or, perhaps, have a fear of falling?” Oftentimes we shuffle around not putting much energy into our stride. If you do have a fear of falling, there are balance exercises a physical therapist can demonstrate or look for online exercise and balance instruction. Of course, before starting any new exercise routine, please consult with your physician to confirm it is appropriate for you.

I know we’ve all heard this one, but it is so true. Get involved. Studies show that people who are involved in hobbies, social activities, and who volunteer, generally have higher levels of happiness and report lower levels of depression. It has also been reported that staying socially engaged may reduce the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. We are blessed to have a community full of opportunities to get involved. Montrose is home to numerous clubs, non-profits, classes, cultural events and activities. Try something new and challenge your brain to learn a new activity.

One way to explore new opportunities is to visit Meetup (www.meetup.com) to join a group that organizes online, but meets in person. You can also start your own meetup group. Meetup groups are “neighbors getting together to learn something, do something, share something.” Categories include arts, career, cars, dancing, education, fashion, fitness, language, writing, movies, music, parenting, outdoors, photography, religion, sports, technology and more.

The number of people over the age of 45 is growing every year, according to the web site healthyaging.net. Carolyn Worthington, editor-in-chief of Healthy Aging® Magazine and executive director of Healthy Aging® writes, “The attention used to be just on the baby boomers. The generation x-ers are elbowing their way in and have many of the same interests as the previous generation – stay active and vibrant as long as possible. There are over 76 million baby boomers today over 50 and the first of the 82.1 million generation x-ers reached that milestone in 2015.”

Worthington added about Healthy Aging Month, “We saw a need to draw attention to the myths of aging, to shout out ‘Hey, it’s not too late to take control of your health, it’s never too late to get started on something new.’ Why not think about the positive aspects of aging instead of the stereotypes and the negative aspects?”

Here’s to celebrating healthy aging! Let’s make it a top priority in ourselves and our local communities.

Erin Berge is the regional marketing director for Volunteers of America, who provide a network of health care programs in Montrose and Delta counties (voaseniorliving.org or 1-844-862-4968).

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